A whimsical introduction to an unusual mammal.

I AM NOT A PENGUIN

A PANGOLIN'S LAMENT

Most children will not be familiar with pangolins, scaly mammals native to Asia and Africa.

But neither are the animal characters who mix up the pangolin with many other animals. A talkative pangolin introduces his species with a poster. The animals, illustrated in a stylized but realistic manner, seem thoroughly confused by this new creature. In the dryly witty text, the pangolin describes his various attributes but is constantly interrupted by other animals mistaking him for a creature that’s similar in some way. When the pangolin describes curling up into a ball to protect himself, the skunk says: “Oh, I get it! He’s an armadillo.” When penguins are remarked on, the pangolin grows extremely testy. “I AM CERTAINLY NOT A PENGUIN! I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT PENGUINS! THERE ARE NO PENGUINS HERE! ZERO PENGUINS! NOT. ONE. PENGUIN!” And who should stroll in but a surfer penguin, wearing cool sunglasses and leading the pangolin’s audience to the beach. The crestfallen pangolin starts to cancel the presentation, but then a small Asian-presenting child shows up to listen, explaining, “I’m just a kid”—to which the pangolin responds with puzzlement: “Huh. Like a goat?” The pangolin shows sheet after informational sheet to an enthralled audience of one, quiet humor giving way to a small torrent of facts written on mock presentation paper. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16.8% of actual size.)

A whimsical introduction to an unusual mammal. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12740-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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